“If something one of us does bothers the other person, we compromise… If you really want to make a relationship to work, any relationship, it takes respect, consideration, and a willingness to compromise.”
Wise words, Jo, and sentiments which another Jo – Jo Rowling, better known as JK Rowling – would agree with.
Since 1997 and the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we have been engulfed in the world of Hogwarts, wizards, witches, and muggles. With today’s movie release of Harry Potter and theDeathly Hallows (Part 2), however, this week marks the end of the Harry Potter era.
Perhaps I was just at the right stage of family life to love Harry Potter. My children were toddlers when Philosopher’s Stone was published; this month, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione reach school-leaving age, so do they. Together, over the last fourteen years, we have read the books, seen the movies, and queued at midnight in bookstores.
Or hate them?
It’s apparent, though, that not everyone shares this affection. While I understand we all have different tastes and Harry Potter cannot possibly be everyone’s cup of butterbeer, in too many cases this aversion has gone far past simple dislike into the realms of…well, ‘hatred’ isn’t too strong a word for it.
Pretty ironic, really, when one of the main Harry Potter themes is Tolerance.
Could it be that the very people who claim to detest Harry Potter are, perhaps, those who most need to read the books?
1. Tolerance of things we fear
Harry’s aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, fear all things magic. They won’t even permit Harry to use the M word – “Magic” – in their presence, and they confiscate his Hogwarts textbooks over summer vacations.
These actions are not unlike those of some fundamentalist churches, who periodically burn Harry Potter books. One Baptist pastor claims:
“The Potter series is worse than pornography. The books are even more dangerous than the Satanic Bible. At least with the Satanic Bible, young people know that the book was written by Satan. The Devil just changed his name to J.K. Rowling this time.”
Satan needn’t have bothered. It won’t help him get a share of the royalties.
2. Tolerance of infirmities
Professor Lupin, a teacher at Hogwarts, is humiliated and discriminated against because, through no fault of his own, he has a chronic disease – lycanthropy. In other words, once a month, he will turn into a wolf, bay at the moon, and run around biting people. The disease is now fully controlled by potions, but Professor Snape still regards it as his duty to inform Hogwarts pupils of Professor Lupin’s condition.
Sadly, many AIDS sufferers can probably empathize with Professor Lupin’s plight.
However, we learn that in his teenage years, when no potion was available for his disease, Professor Lupin had three friends who developed their own ability to change into animal form, so they could keep Lupin company during full moon.
A true friend, like a life partner, will be tolerant of you in both sickness and in health.
3. Tolerance of other races
Voldemort followers in the Potter series want to rid the world of muggle magicians – wizards and witches who are not born into aristocratic magical families, but born in the real world and who display magical talent. Hermione is one of these, as was Harry Potter’s mother – both brilliant witches, but their talents apparently not good enough for Voldemort’s approval.
The parallels between Voldemort and Hitler, between the uprising of Voldemort followers and the Nazi party, between the desires for a master race and for pure-blood magicians, are only too evident.
4. Tolerance of things we envy
Lastly, a lesson not in the text of the books, but from reactions to the books.
There is wide criticism from both writers and ‘readers’ (I use quotes because generally these people haven’t read the books at all, but are prepared to offer criticism nevertheless) that the books have a clunky writing style, use too many adverbs – in short, name a writing sin, and JKR has committed it, it seems, and therefore does not deserve all the acclaim she has received.
No matter that this woman had an idea, worked on it determinedly for many years under far from ideal conditions, and finally achieved her goal of turning this idea into seven books. How dare someone rise from single motherhood on welfare to happily married, multimillionaire author?
In other words: How dare JK Rowling not be me?
As Jo Gan also said yesterday:
We have learned to accept each other’s differences.
STAY TUNED for the first part in our series of interviews with cross-cultural couples.
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